Updated: Aug 16
For Video Game Music Composers, business doesn’t stop in quarantine.
COVID-19 is terrifying and exhausting. It’s claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. So many of us have been touched by this virus in one way or another. You might’ve had it yourself or know somebody who did. My own 80-year old grandmother contracted the virus (she promptly kicked its ass and managed not to pass it to any other family members in the process, thankfully). If you’ve lost somebody to it, I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. That person’s life didn’t deserve to be cut short and you don’t deserve the pain and suffering you’re going through. I send you all the love that I can through a blog post, friend.
Depending on where you live in the world, on top of emotional and health-related hardships, you might also be deep in economic hardships. Many countries have done too little to alleviate the burdens of rent, utilities, and food accessibility during this time. Those of us who can are quarantining and social distancing and those of us deemed essential workers are doing their best at an impossible task. I see you and I thank you for what you’re doing. You deserve to be paid far more than what you’re earning.
The world hasn’t stopped for video game composers, either.
Those of us who are just starting out in our career need to hustle just as much as ever. And those of us who are doing this full time have so much on the line if work dries up. Thankfully, most of us work from home already. But for many of us, there isn’t the luxury of taking a break or stopping to catch our breath and take stock of our loved ones. It is a tragedy but it is all just how it. As an aside, for any video game music composer reading this who has managed to find time to take a break and rest or who has chosen to as a result of crunch, overwork, and general mental and physical wellbeing: please don’t feel guilty for the choice you made. I know it’s hard when you want to work or you feel like you should be working but you aren’t. The choice you’ve made to rest is valid and, unfortunately, the hustle will be waiting for you when you return.
A big part of our job as video game music composers is networking. I recently heard a composer friend say that 50% of your time should be spent looking for new work. That may be true for you or not but that sentiment is absolutely indicative of the importance of networking for us. For many of us in larger metropolitan areas, networking has consisted of groups, meetups, and events. I live in Seattle, one of the few cities known for game development. For any of us living in metropolitan areas with big game dev scenes, we’ve taken our regional networking advantage for granted. For many of my rural friends, networking during COVID is no different than it was before.
For any of us living in metropolitan areas with big game dev scenes, we’ve taken our regional networking advantage for granted. For many of my rural friends, networking during COVID is no different than it was before.
In the age of COVID-19 (and for the foreseeable future) we have to find new work and build relationships online. Some of us are unfamiliar with how to do that. We’ve either had a lucky break or have been privileged enough to have strong local relationships that have provided work for us. Some of us have only and always found our work online. We’ve built relationships and made connections through social media and online forums. We’re all online now. We have to get good at fostering genuine connections online. So, if you’re a video game music composer looking for work right now. What is the best (and most appropriate) way of finding work online right now?
Give massive love and support to indie developers online
Think about all the ways you wish you were supported in your art. You wish people commented on your posts, retweeted your music, shared your work with friends, and just generally take an interest in the work that you do. This may be a big revelation for some of you, but indie game developers are hustling just as hard as we are and want all the same things we do. Imagine all the goals you might have for your life and just replace “my music” with “my video games.”
“I want the whole world to know about my video games.”
“I hope my video games change somebody’s life someday.”
“My dream is to make a living off of my video games.”
This is a golden rule sort of situation. Do unto others what you wish others would do unto you. Everything is scary and up in the air right now. Everybody just wants to feel supported and loved. There are a few well-known rules in the freelance world: people hire their friends, people hire for peace of mind, and people hire to add value to their projects. So ask yourself:
Are these indie game developers my friends?
Does hiring me provide peace of mind?
Does hiring me add value to their project?
You might know two and three to be true but unless the indie game developers you are reaching out to fall into category one than they won’t know. When a developer reaches out to you without a relationship, it’s because they’re reasonably certain that hiring your adds value and provides them peace of mind. Your friends know you and they know you add value and provide peace of mind and that’s why they hire you.
So, if you want to find work right now, then you have to play the long game. And you need to make new friends and you need to support those friends. It isn’t about ulterior motives or being manipulative. It’s about lifting each other up as creatives. I operate from a mindset of abundance. There is enough to go around and we need to share what we have and that starts with our support first. I take this mindset with my composer friends and I take this mindset with my game developer friends.
We are all going to get through this as best as we can. Things might not be the same post-COVID and they might not be any better but we can come into the after with new friends that support us in our lives and careers. It’s about the one thing we can control right now.
Do you have any advice for other video game music composers looking to network right now? Let us know in the comments below.